Have you ever noticed that there is a real expectation in society that it is not only admirable to “have it all” but also entirely possible to do so? And yet, I don’t think I have ever met (or heard of) anyone who truly “has it all”, have you?
Sure, I’ve read all those inspirational books and interviews with people who appear to have it all, those who balance work and home life beautifully and have created a lifestyle that suits them perfectly, but I’d like to hazard a guess that there are things that they too have had to let go of or leave behind in striking such a balance.
What we see in these stories are the good points, the bits that work, but we never see the failed attempts made along the way or the things that have had to change whether change was wanted or not. And yet it is those parts which really speak to me, remind me that we are all human and that we all have limits.
Recognising and honouring our limits can be so difficult, especially when we are bombarded with messages that tell us that we can “have it all” so long as we want it enough. Sometimes this message isn’t even meant in a negative way – inspirational and motivational messages of hope really do have a place in helping us to achieve our goals and make our dreams a reality. But without the balance of messages that remind us that sometimes we just have to accept our limits, we can easily find ourselves pushing beyond boundaries that are there for a reason.
I say this from experience. Over the past few years, since becoming a mother, I have tried to “have it all”. I have wanted to raise my child in a happy and healthy home, help my husband provide financially for my family, achieve multiple dreams connected to my writing, be the best friend and neighbour I can be, improve my skills through ongoing education and personal reading, and all whilst still finding time to relax and enjoy life. I never thought that this sounded like too much – it’s what anyone would want, right? But in trying to do it all, I have worn myself to the bone for far too long and am facing the consequences of this.
You see, this past year my health has been appalling. Admittedly it hasn’t been great for years, but for a long time this was masked by the fact that I had the time and space to rest and recover whenever I pushed myself beyond my limits. This just isn’t the case now that I am a mother, even less so since returning to work and trying to balance work and home life. And in my attempts to carry on regardless (because, hey, it really is possible to “have it all” don’t you know?) I have not only ignored my limits but have downright trodden all over them.
And the reality of this is that my body has begun to fall apart in ways that make me stop and reassess the situation. I have no choice to carry on regardless these days, I have to respect and honour my limits. But in doing so I am beginning to realise that this really is the key to healing – it is only when we understand that we need to be healed that the healing can begin. And this, for me, means accepting my limits and making changes to ensure that I can honour them too.
Of course there are some things I cannot change – my responsibilities as a parent must always come first, and I have to work in order to continue to pay the bills. But when I look at all the other things I was trying to achieve I realise that some things will simply have to wait. That novel I’ve been wanting to complete for years now can wait a few more years – the time I could spend writing could be spent sleeping instead! And those crochet patterns I’m just dying to try out will still be there next year, when the yoga I begin to do this year helps my body heal and I have more energy.
As for that blogging conference I always attend and love so much, well as much as it pains me to sell my ticket I know that spending my annual leave resting and recuperating rather than travelling and networking will be time well spent. There is always next year, after all! And the added bonus of not attending it means that the money I would have spent in getting there can be put to use in my healing journey. And that’s what it’s all about…
You see, honouring your limits doesn’t mean giving up on everything. Yes, it means making conscious decisions about what is and isn’t achievable and yes it also means realising that trying to “have it all” can be a dangerous game to play, but it doesn’t mean giving up on everything. I have some pretty big dreams right now that, if they come together, will make things a whole lot easier for us as a family in the long-term. But in order to make them a reality I need to invest in my own health and well-being first, something which is really quite alien to me.
So by honouring my limits and prioritising the most important things in my life right now I am not really deciding it is impossible to “have it all” but rather looking to “have the best for me”. And that, my friends, is what I think it’s all about.
Tell me, how do you honour your limits?